I saw 90 movies in 2013 (or shortly thereafter, if we’re being honest- I don’t know how anyone is expected to see all the Christmas releases in one week!). 90 is a lot of movies, or at least it is for me (I head up My Theatre and My TV, My Cinema is Rachael’s problem). I think 90′s a lot for anyone (to clarify- that’s 90 movies that came out in 2013, not movies in general). It’s especially a lot in a year that was something of a disappointment film-wise. Following up the greatness that was 2012, 2013 left me feeling a little uninspired. There were some highlights, certainly- some tiny movies, some huge, some blockbusters, some critical favourites, some flops that got a bad rap- but little of the excitement that I felt the previous year.
To recap the year, I decided to replace a top 10 list (or top 15, if you’re 2012) with a full ranking of My Cinematic 2013. All year long I kept tabs on what I saw, jotting down a few notes and fitting each film into the ever-growing list wherever I instinctively felt it should go. With the perspective of time, some have moved up or down a few spots but both #1 and #90 have stayed firmly in their hard-earned territory as the best and the worst.
11. Much Ado About Nothing
Everything I need to say about this film I’ve already said in our 4-part series (including exclusive interviews with stars Amy Acker, Fran Kranz and Sean Maher). Suffice to say, for those of us who live at the cross-section of Shakespeare scholarship and Whedonverse fandom, this Much Ado was pure delight.
12. Arthur Newman
It takes awhile for this movie to click. Act one is slow and it’s hard to connect with a character elaborately abandoning his family (including a teenage son and loving if boring Anne Heche-y girlfriend). But somewhere in early act two it all comes together to create one of the most delicately sweet stories of the year- about love and intimacy and rediscovering one’s self. Colin Firth and Emily Blunt are mesmerizing in this small, tender, wholly underrated road film that you should find on Netflix right now.
An ultimately sweet and touching family story that absolutely nails the petty boredom of a dying small town. It’s moody, naggingly sad, poignantly funny and features some of the best on-screen performances of the year (most notable to me was Will Forte’s compassionate turn, showing the real skill that lingered beneath his broad SNL work). A beautiful story in a perfect tonal encapsulation of a time and place.
14. Enough Said
Dear James Gandolfini,
I miss you.
Enough Said was a lovely, intimate and heart-rending film to leave us with; a great reminder of your enduring charm.
Thank you for everything you gave us.
Here’s a movie that deserved much more recognition than it got. Sure, it had some of the schmaltzy indulgence that has marked the great Ron Howard’s later years but it was full of thrills, strong emotions, and an interesting, well-paced story. And Daniel Bruhl being a badass, which is always So Great. (Bruhl is a fantastic actor who has the potential to be huge if he’s willing to do more American accent work). This was also Chris Hemsworth’s big post-Thor test for actual acting ability and he passed with flying colours in a role that demanded his patented mix of casually overwhelming charm with sneaky emotional depth. It’s a little long, but Rush is a a great rivalry film for the ages with the inspiring vocabulary of all the best sports movies.
16. The Wolf of Wall Street
One of the most reliable tests of a film’s quality is how much I like it in relation to how much I’m expected to like it based on who made it and what it’s about. For example, Whedon’s Much Ado was an inevitable slam dunk for me- a low key, modern Shakespeare adaptation by a filmmaker I love featuring his best collaborators (all of whom I also happen to love- imagine that). All he had to do was not mess it up completely and it would score pretty high in these rankings; that’s not a clear indicator of actual quality. On the other hand, was I ever really going to like Pain & Gain? Of course not. My not liking it is therefore not really a fair indicator of quality either. Rather, to say I didn’t really enjoy Saving Mr. Banks is something of a scathing indictment, because it had all sorts of Disney, Tom Hanks, Emma Thompson, Bradley Whitford, BJ Novak help in winning me over, and still didn’t manage to make it above #55 on my list of 90. Meanwhile, The Wolf of Wall Street was a male-centric, ultra-American film about corrupt, irresponsible, and flat-out gross people made by a filmmaker whom I’ve never loved as much as Everyone is supposed to and a heartthrob I’ve only ever really liked for his relationship with his best friend (here here, Kate & Leo!). But dammit if it’s not a Fantastic movie. The script is whip smart and wildly funny, the performances from everyone- highlighted by Leo and Jonah Hill (whom I’ve always severely disliked, by the way)- are brilliant and there’s some actual STUFF behind the epic galavanting. It’s outrageously long. Irrationally long. Long to the point where “self-indulgent” is the mere shadow of a memory. But it’s so good that I’m at least somewhat prepared to excuse such an annoying quality. My brother found this movie disturbing, I found it riveting; I’m not sure what that says about either of us but I’m not really prepared to care.
17. Blue is the Warmest Colour
Yet another film of criminal length, Blue is the Warmest Colour pulls off its interminability by telling a big personal story that comes pretty close to filling the time. It’s a little overdramatic and meandering but it’s a lot moving and features two of the most affecting performances from a female actor all year. Lea Seydoux is transcendant.
18. Kick Ass 2
I loved the first Kick Ass, forgot how much I loved the first Kick Ass, watched the second Kick Ass on demand at 3am, remembered how awesome the entire Kick Ass franchise is. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is a really intriguing leading man (here’s hoping for more great parts for him) and the killer Chloe Grace Moretz is at her best returning to the role that first got her noticed. Also, the sequel trades out Nick Cage for a band of awesome people that includes Donald Faison and an against-type Jim Carrey while expanding Clark Duke’s role and bringing back the amazing villain that is Christopher Mintz-Plasse for a second, even more epic go-round. And dreamy writer-director Jeff Wadlow’s script is airtight with plenty of great jokes and decent emotion. What more could you want?
19. The Butler
The Oscar movie that didn’t make it to the Oscars. Oddly, annoyingly, I liked it so much more than most of the Oscar movies that did actually make it to the Oscars. The all-star cast of American Presidents (hey there, James Marsden!); Oprah in one of the strongest supporting turns of the season; unexpected comedy duo Lenny Kravitz & Cuba Gooding Jr; small roles for Jesse Williams and ace screenwriter Danny Strong; Forrest Whitaker as leading man Cecil Gaines; David Oyelowo’s soulful turn as Cecil’s activist son; the incredible wit of whomever it was that cast Jane Fonda as Nancy Reagan- so great. All that said, you can’t pay me enough to call this thing “Lee Daniels’ The Butler”. I won’t do it.